Album Review : Linkin Park - Meteora (2003)
Everybody I know secretly loves Linkin Park. They have become the butt of every nu metal joke since the genre turned rancid seemingly overnight like a jug of old milk left on the counter, but they've always stuck to their story and kept making music no matter what people thought of them. That is why everyone says Linkin Park sucks while secretly enjoying them. Their music still evokes today the same feelings it did when you were 15 years old. Believe it or not, they're releasing a new album this Friday and I'm terrified of how it might sound. I do NOT want them to change. I'd freeze Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda in a block of ice between albums if it kept them immature and silly looking.
See, Meteora is a misunderstood record. Because whoever picked the singles was either out of his goddamn mind or trying to sabotage its success. They chose the three of its five worst songs: Somewhere I Belong, Numb and Breaking the Habit. The best Meteora has to offer are the songs you haven't heard if you never actually played the album. My personal favorite is the opener Don't Stay where Chester Bennington repeatedly tells a girl he caught cheating on him that it's fine because she was kind of turning him into a pussy anyway: Forget out memories/Forget our possibilities/What you were turning me into/Just give me myself back and/Don't stay. Lying from You is another standout song from that record albeit its lyrics are less gloriously Linkin Park-esque. It is surprisingly adult in fact. It's about making your mea culpa for an abusive relationship, yet finding power in reconnecting with your true self.
But what differentiate a good Linkin Park song from a terrible one? Glad you asked. Because I have an answer. Listen to instrumentals of their songs one after the other for a little while. The guitar parts all muddle into one another. The turntable scratches and samples help you identify the songs but don't carry any of the feeling. What makes or breaks a Linkin Park is the freakin' lyrics. They're one of the ultimate "white people dance to the lyrics" band and that is why we love them. Bennington and Shinoda are at their best whenever they sing about duplicitous ex-girlfriends, getting generally fucked over and trying to recuperate the part of you that you've lost. The music of Linkin Park puts you in a headspace where you're the victim of a conspiracy of haters and all that's left for you to do is take revenge by becoming successful. I don't care whether you're 15 or 83 years old and knocking on death's door, that shit works.
When I first started researching the band for this review I quickly became obsessed. Linkin Park is a fascinating band because what they are is clear to everybody, except maybe for them. They are schlock artists. They earnestly make music that require a grain of salt in order to appreciate, kind of like the Fast & Furious movies. But these guys cannot stay on topic (backstabbing friends, cheating exes) to save their lives. Sometimes it works in their favor like on the song Nobody's Listening that almost completely crosses into hip-hop territory, but Linkin Park's obsession with self-righteous lyrics steers them into strange directions sometimes. Breaking the Habit sounds like an alcoholic promise. Nobody decides to break an abusive cycle in one night. Easier to Run is so vague it doesn't offer the payoff of taking revenge of anybody. It just makes you feel guilty for even listening to it. Linkin Park are on point plenty of times on Meteora: Don't Stay, Lying From You, Hit the Floor, Faint, Figure. 09 but there are a lot of mood breaking moments too, which is consistent with how unself-aware they are.
Meteora is a great example of what makes Linkin Park such an endearing band that is almost impossible to take seriously. Unlike bands like Limp Bizkit and Nickelback, they take their music seriously and show their audience respect, but they are NOT at peace with what they do. They either don't know or don't want to know why people love them and it's fine with me. It keeps music coming from an earnest place, which is how it should always be. Linkin Park is and always be a band that speaks to your inner teenager, though. And it's not a generational thing. Victimization, self-determination and longing for glorious revenge are feelings that lie dormant in everyone of us, yet we all experienced them earnestly at least once during our formative years and that's why Linkin Park's primary audience is still learning how to shave and drink without passing out and crapping their pants even today. And this is why Meteora is so fondly remembered 14 years after in came out.
Keep an eye out for my review of their new record next week.